In 2007, Tim Hardaway said:
“You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known,” Hardaway said. “I don’t like gay people and I don’t like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States.”
Asked about having a gay teammate, Hardaway continued:
“First of all, I wouldn’t want him on my team.
“And second of all, if he was on my team, I would, you know, really distance myself from him because, uh, I don’t think that’s right. And you know I don’t think he should be in the locker room while we’re in the locker room. I wouldn’t even be a part of that,” he said.
Hardaway also has a Hall of Fame Probability of 79% – one of the highest among eligible players not enshrined. Only Larry Foust (94%) and Jack Sikma (87%) remain bypassed with higher marks.
Hardaway, via Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype:
Well, you know, the reason I’m not in is because of what I said in 2007 about gay people. That’s why I’m not in right now, and I understand it. I hurt a lot of people’s feelings and it came off the wrong way and it was really bad of me to say that. Since then, I’ve turned a wrong into a right. My parents used to always tell me, “If you do something wrong, look it in the eye. Don’t back down from it and be scared of it. Go make it right and make people understand that you made a mistake.” And that’s what I did. I’m trying to do what’s right, supporting gay people and transgender people. I want people to understand [what they go through] and understand them as people. They shouldn’t be seen as “other” people. You shouldn’t call them [derogatory names] or look at them all ugly. Those are people too. They should get to live their lives just like we live our lives and that means having freedom and having fun. They should get to enjoy their life the way they’re supposed to enjoy life… I’ve talked to people from the LGBTQ community [and I tell them], “You’re supposed to have the same rights that we have and supposed to be able to do everything that we do. You shouldn’t be outcast.”
Life is too short to be out here hating one another and trying to hurt one another. I understand that. But, yeah, that’s the only reason why I’m not in [the Hall of Fame] and I understand that. There’s nothing I can do about it. You got to take your bumps and bruises, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I just try to be positive. It hurts. But, hey, I understand the ramifications of [what I said]. I understand why I’m not in. All I can do is keep living. My parents also always told me, “You can’t control what you can’t control.”
If this is the reason Hardaway remains outside the Hall of Fame, it’d be a shame. His words were reprehensible, but his response has been incredible.
Hardaway didn’t simply apologize and move on. He has held himself accountable and worked to redeem himself.
He has become involved in LGBTQ groups. He campaigned for politicians who supported gay rights. He was the first signer of a petition to legalize same-sex marriage in Florida. When Jason Collins came out, Hardaway was among the first to call offering support.
We all err. Hardaway’s response to his most public wrongdoing is inspiring.
People shouldn’t be judged by only their worst moment. We should view them in totality. Hardaway has done so much to show he’s more than those 2007 comments.
Hall of Fame voters bypassing him because of a single misdeed – again, one he has taken numerous steps to overcome – would also be terribly inconsistent. Jason Kidd pleaded guilty to beating his wife and still made the Hall of Fame. Kobe Bryant admitted to having sex with a woman who didn’t deem it consensual, and it’d be shocking if he’s not enshrined as soon as eligible.
All that said, I’m not totally convinced Hardaway is being excluded because of his anti-gay comments. The Basketball Hall of Fame has a garbled and secretive voting process that leads to plenty of undesirable outcomes.
Hardaway’s career doesn’t make him a lock. He made an All-NBA first team, three All-NBA second teams and an All-NBA third team with the Warriors and Heat. But he also played in only three playoff-series victories and never reached the NBA Finals, let alone won a title. In that gray area, Hardaway’s case could go either direction for numerous possible reasons.
Of course, lesser players have been inducted. That’s not proof of anything. The Basketball Hall of Fame deserves no benefit of the doubt on evaluating even just basketball accomplishments.
I’m not ready to assume that anonymous group’s views on homophobic comments made 12 years ago.